U.Va. Graduate Students Awarded NSF Grants

May 22, 2009 — Two University of Virginia doctoral students, Rosemary Ann Cox-Galhotra and Elizabeth Anne "Beth" Hart, have received National Science Foundation graduate fellowships, which will start in the 2009-10 academic year. The three-year fellowships provide about $30,000 to each student each year.

Cox-Galhotra's chemical engineering research focuses on a new type of fuel cell – specifically, the physical and electrochemical characterization of thin-film model electrodes of solid-oxide fuel cells.

She is a member of the research team of assistant professor Steven McIntosh.

"The promise of direct and efficient conversion of chemical to electrical energy makes fuel cell development an area of great technological interest. The advantages over traditional power generation systems include increased efficiency, decreased emissions, high energy density and a scalable, modular design," McIntosh's Web site says.

These fuel cells can, in principle, operate on any combustible fuel, but currently require hydrogen fuel.

Hart, an anthropology student, is researching and exploring a large monumental site and an older, small village in Egypt near the Nile River, both dating back nearly 4,000 years.

She is interested in the interplay between different socio-political strata in this formative period, she said. The building of tombs – precursors to the pyramids – began during this time.

"I intend to investigate whether the small peripheral sites were economically and politically – as well as ideologically and stylistically – integrated with any of the larger known political centers during what is called the 'Nagada II' period," Hart said.

Three other anthropology graduate students have received National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grants, which provide partial support of doctoral dissertation research: Beatrix Arendt in archaeology, and Jennie Doberne and Jason Hickel in socio-cultural anthropology.

"My dissertation project," Arendt said, "is on the archaeological study of cultural interactions of German Moravian missionaries and Inuit peoples in the 18th and 19th centuries, in Labrador, Canada.

"I investigate how material remains within households changed or remained the same after the arrival of the missionaries, and whether this also serves as an indication for ideological changes. I also plan to incorporate a community archaeology program that will provide a cultural experience for Inuit high school students."

Doberne's research "focuses on older women's quest for motherhood as a way to investigate the social and technological limits of pro-natalism in Israel."

Through technological and medical resources, the national pro-natalist effort is pushing forward previous biological constraints on maternity and enabling older women to become mothers.

This project seeks to account for aging within the cultural complexities of the medical and social production of motherhood in Israel.

Hickel's travels since joining the anthropology department have taken him to KwaZulu-Natal on South Africa's eastern seaboard. There, he began researching the labor unions that organize workers in the sugar industry.

In his study, he is looking at the standard nationalist version of history that claims to represent the motives of the rural migrant Zulus who form a substantial proportion of the labor movement.

While most analysts attribute this conflict to "tribalism" or ethnic nationalism, Hickel said it may reflect more than just identity politics. It might indicate the differences between workers' understandings of their rights and their interests as citizens in the postcolonial nation.

Currently, nine graduate students in residence at U.Va. are supported by NSF fellowships, or have received and deferred the fellowship, including:

• Jennie Doberne, anthropology (deferred)
• Niccolo Fiorentino, mechanical engineering
• Justin Henriques, systems engineering
• David Hondula, environmental sciences
• Erin Reed, mechanical engineering
• Hillary Schaefer, psychology
• Kristen Walcott, computer science
• Adam Watson, anthropology (deferred)
• Lydia Wilson, anthropology

About the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation aims to ensure the professional vitality of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States and to reinforce its diversity by offering approximately 900 to 1,600 graduate fellowships.

For information, visit the Web site.